As recently as a decade ago comic book movies were often labeled as fan boy fodder that was largely ignored by the non-comic book masses. Yes there were exceptions such as the Batman films, Spider-man series, and the first two Superman movies that did large business, but for every one of them there was legions of misfires including the recent “Green Lantern”, “Green Hornet”, and “Superman Returns” that failed to spark the masses interest.
In recent years there’s been a solid trending of Marvel films such as The “X -Men”, “Iron Man”, “Thor”, and “Captain America” which of them solid box office but for the most part appealed to a core audience which in the eyes of many studio executives limited their box office potential beyond the mid 200 millions domestically. Certainly with the worldwide box office and DVDs factored in the films have been huge financial successes however in the case of “Green Lantern”, and other earlier efforts, “Hulk’ this was not always the case.
This summer brings us a trio of new hero themed films, with the pending new “The Amazing Spider-man as well as the much-anticipated conclusion to Christian Bales Batman trilogy. With the “Avengers” smashing box office records around the world and currently pushing the $600 million in worldwide earnings mark, I ask you readers to debate this sentence….” The Avengers is the best comic book movie adaptation ever made”. Certainly it is on path to be the most successful as it may eclipse the worldwide box office of “Batman: The Dark Knight” which edged past $1 billion in worldwide theatrical income. The trick of course will be and how much the box office drops off in the coming week, but with no real threats emerging to challenge it this weekend one could certainly see it for another strong week of box office returns.
Now that I’ve discussed the financial side of the film let’s look at the creative aspects behind. Certainly few comic book films has had as impressive a cast as the”Avengers” and they certainly benefited well from the 200 million plus budget. The amazing array of special effects that utilize the talents of not only industrial light and Magic but several of the industry’s top houses was clearly on display and a solid script that allowed the impressive ensemble to shine both collectively and individually certainly helped.
The sheer star power of the film certainly helped draw in the non-hard-core fans. So what is it about the stone that this caused it to succeed so far above and beyond its peers including the parts that led up to its formation?
Simply put, it’s a simple matter of math. You have essentially an Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. movie combined into one two hour and 20 min. action adventure. The film is essentially the sum of its parts and while segments of the team may not be gigantic box office draws on their own, like their cinematic counterparts they make a formidable opponent when combined.
The true measure of the film of course cannot be based upon box office alone. There is the matter of content that must be addressed. The film in my opinion, stayed true to the source material and did not allow any one character to dominate the story. My biggest concern when the project began was that the film would simply be a showcase for Robert Downey Jr. or worse, an ensemble picture where everyone was afraid to overshadow their co-stars. In many cases this is what happened with “Batman” as Nicholson and Ledger overshadowed the title character.
The “X-Men” is the best example of an ensemble film in the same league as “The Avengers”, but it was hampered in my opinion by sequels that did not live up to expectations and a cast that at the start, had to many unknowns to draw in the non fans.
Growing up, “Superman” was always an example of how you could do a comic book film right. The sequel also had great merit but sadly the momentum was lost by the comic laden and budget constricted third and fourth films that followed.
“Spider-man” was until now, the best example in my opinion of doing it right. However it to had it’s share of issues such as the Gwen Stacey factor in the first two films, the organic web shooters, and other details.
That being said, the film drove in the fans and non fans alike thanks in large part to the great casting and directing. The series lost so much steam however with the laughable third film that a total reboot was issued.
I can go on and on as there have been many good and bad examples of comic book films that can be looked at. For me, what makes “The Avengers” stand out from it’s peers is the following..
A story that is faithful to the characters and the source material. We did not have huge dramatic license taken by the studio and a director who was anxious to put his own take of the film out there for all to see.
A solid cast that works well as individuals and worked very well with one another. There were no reports of egos, sniping, and other diva like behavior from the set. This was a hard, demanding, and physical film, and reports have everyone giving it their all. Unlike films such as “Batman Forever” where Kilmer reportedly could not stand Jim Carrey and his manical antics to get into character, nor cast members fighting over screen time and script revisions.
The FX was top notch yet at the heart of the film was the characters. While they do possess great abilities, the team by and large are easy for fans to relate to and root for.
The Direction: A film can be made or broken by the editing and the directing. “Spider-man 3” lost alot of people when Tobey went dancing through the streets and across a club.
Joss knows what fans wanted to see as he is first and foremost a fan. He crafted a story and a film that caterted to his inner fanboy and brought us along for the ride.
Look at some of the epic misfires, nipples on the Batsuit, killer poodles, George Clooney. This is what happens when a studio, director, and producer think they know best and that fans will happily lap up anything they serve to them.
Respect for the fans. “The Avengers” did not sell itself as something it was not. It gave fans exactly what they expected and took the time to tell the story properly and not in a rushed reel of FX shots that had not character and substance.
I am glad that this grand experiment has paid off in a big way as the avengers is certainly set an extremely high bar for the next wave of superhero films to aspire to.